This article is part of our 'Cambridge Spotlight' series, profiling our lawyers based in our Cambridge office. In the series, we find out about their backgrounds, their journey through law and hear why Cambridge is important to them.
Gareth Dickson is a Partner in the IP Disputes team in the Innovation department. He has nearly two decades of experience in resolving intellectual property and commercial disputes for entrepreneurial businesses, from some of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms to the most exciting start-ups, with a focus on online businesses and those involved in digital technologies.
I wanted to get into law because … BBC Radio 2 was often on in the kitchen growing up and they had a segment where callers sought advice on a wide range of legal matters. The answers were always very pragmatic and designed to give practical help. I realised that law isn't reserved to academia but exists to make a difference to the lives of ordinary people, and I grew up wanting to help people.
I came to be in Cambridge because … I studied here and have lived in and around the area since the 1990s and commuted into London for about 12 years. When a role become available at Taylor Vinters, an ambitious and innovative Cambridge-based firm with innovation at its heart, I jumped at the chance. That was in 2017.
I chose intellectual property law because … it's a role that requires a unique blend of legal and commercial input. There are also fantastic clients – the innovation economy, and IP in particular, is made up of problem-solvers who want their lawyers to be problem-solvers too.
The thing that motivates me most is … fairness. To help ensure a level playing field, I have been involved in lobbying by the Law Society's IP Law Committee to change, for example, the law on groundless threats for intellectual property infringement, and have also done policy work at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the International Trademark Association (INTA).
The work achievement I'm most proud of is … winning three high-profile disputes for Amazon as part of the expansion of the domain name system, against a leading advocate at the ICJ, appointed by ICANN, who had the backing of several South American Governments. More recently, we successfully defended a patent and confidential information claim against a quantum computing start-up that was opportunistic and unfair. Since then, the client become a leading player in a hugely important market.
The thing that makes Cambridge such a hub of innovation is … that it's a great city to live and work in. Cambridge has an environment that enables people to be creative and expressive – in the workspace and outside of it. There are lots of opportunities on your doorstep to go running, cycling etc. It's also so historic, with a blend of old and new that lets people subconsciously tap into ideas of transition, change and progress. People tend to have a 'can-do' attitude. Many people, for example, worked remotely well before the pandemic according to what works best for them and their clients.
One challenge … is getting the right result when the parties don't have much of a budget. It's always a delicate balance when the client has a limited budget but needs the right results. That has to be a real focus of dispute resolution work when acting for the smaller party, and often against spurious claims.
One opportunity from the merger is … having a deeper bench with a broader skillset. Different teams can benefit from each other and that will allow us to hang onto the best client relationships for longer. Clients will also see an increase in services that they have access to.
Somebody that has inspired me during my career is … inspiration can come from a variety of sources, so I can't point to one in particular. I have been fortunate to work with some great lawyers and great colleagues, some of whom are no longer with us, and to have had lots of inspirations across my career, even occasionally from my opponents.
One thing I wish I knew when I started my career is … careers are long. When you step back and look back on your career, you will see how much things have changed and how things that may have seemed insignificant or difficult at the time have positively affected your direction of travel. Things are definitely more manageable if you can get comfortable with a level of uncertainty and ambiguity.
One future trend in my practice area is … more computer-assisted decision-making, and clients with more sophisticated in-house legal capabilities as a result. Disputes lawyers, on the whole, may need to be more proactive in helping to shape clients' business culture and practice to avoid disputes, rather than being available to fix problems when they arise. As computer systems more accurately predict dispute outcomes – as data from some US courts is already making possible – lawyers will need to provide a different kind of input to their clients' businesses, which I think is really exciting.
One thing you didn’t know about me is … shortly before I had a radio program on the local charity radio station, I was a member of the Northern Ireland Youth Parliament in 1994/95 and again in 1996/97.